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Forrester Reports on the Significance of Virtual Healthcare


Aug 5, 2021 - 6 minute read

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Melania Sulak Content Marketing Manager

She specialises in writing and overseeing a broad range of content tailored to meet the needs and interests of IT B2B sector readers.

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The most disruptive elements of the pandemic may seem to be ending and global economies are beginning to open up again as the number of inoculated individuals increases. Taking stock of the impacts that have been felt, one of the positive aspects from these difficult times is the number of COVID-era innovations and newly adopted healthcare practices that have been accelerated and are now likely to stay with patients and clinicians for the long haul.

The Role of Virtual Healthcare

Forrester defines virtual care as “the clinician-patient interactions that take place via phone, video, or a secure message platform” a part of which a clinician is available to evaluate patients and confirm their diagnoses. The rising significance of this form of digital health service has been mentioned in virtually every healthcare-related Forrester report published between October 2020 and March 2021. And that’s despite the fact that there is pressure on many national healthcare departments to return to ‘business as usual’ and reopen services to restore normal operations which involve face-to-face, on-site care.

Virtual care is fast-becoming a core component of the engagement between health and care service users and clinicians. According to the “Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics® US Omnibus Q4 Survey” (2020), “41% of US online adults have had a remote primary care visit, with the rate of adoption nearly doubling since March 2020”. Moreover, it’s also been estimated that “the virtual care market will reach $43 billion in 2021, with up to 480 million virtual ambulatory encounters”.

From the perspective of healthcare providers, “The Forrester Wave™: Virtual Care Platforms For Digital Health” (Q1 2021) report outlines that “more than 50% of practicing physicians plan to make virtual care a permanent part of their care models”, and that large health insurers have plans in place to launch virtual-first primary care plans. This tendency is also outlined in McKinsey’s latest report (July 2021) which states that new data “indicates telehealth use has increased 38X from the pre-COVID-19 baseline”. In fact, “in April 2020, overall telehealth utilisation for office visits and outpatient care was 78 times higher than in February 2020” — a significant shift in the virtual direction.

Careful Virtual Care Adoption

Forrester underlines the importance of investing in high-quality virtual care solutions that will serve organisations for the long-term, instead of adopting quick fixes incapable of meeting evolving needs.

As a result of COVID-19, many clinicians felt the pressure of the pandemic and turned to virtual care as a means to ensure their services could continue to run and their patients could continue to receive care. This type of adaptable approach, focused on the timely implementation of temporary fixes, may have helped save many healthcare organisations from having to shut their doors.

It has been argued by Deloitte that the COVID-19 era has accelerated the adoption of virtual care by 5 years — “as a result, the healthcare sector is probably about five years closer to the Future of HealthTM“ that Deloitte anticipates will take place between now and 2040. However, the fact remains that some have reported that they may have chosen speed (out of necessity) over security or seamless integration. As we look towards a more ‘business as usual’ future, some of these healthcare providers are starting to see the consequences of having hastily adopted temporary fix solutions.

McKinsey reports that, “consumer and provider attitudes toward telehealth have improved since the pre-COVID-19 era”. Nevertheless, perceptions and usage have dropped slightly since the peak of spring 2020. Some barriers — such as perceptions of technology security — remain to be addressed to sustain consumer and provider virtual health adoption, and models are likely to evolve to optimise hybrid virtual and in-person care delivery.

Despite varying attitudes towards virtual solution adoption, according to Forrester, virtual care is here to stay and healthcare organisations “must invest in products that will help play the long game — flexing to fit into clinician workflows, not creating more administrative burden”. Digital health adopters must “work with their clinicians to understand their needs, what will work best with their workflows, and how to optimise virtual care accordingly” — in doing so, healthcare organisations should look for solutions that focus on ensuring interoperability and offer strong workflow capabilities.

The Advantages of Adopting Virtual Healthcare

When implementing solutions — digital or otherwise — it is often helpful to consider using the Quadruple Aim of healthcare as a framework. As such, any innovations you introduce should, increase the quality of care, improve staff satisfaction and patient experience, and help to reduce overall cost.

Higher Quality of Care

Virtual care helps to improve patient engagement by employing such solutions as remote patient monitoring applications. In an effort to better cater to modern healthcare expectations, clinicians have begun turning to digital health solutions to engage patients in self-care initiatives. Doing so enables clinicians to teach patients how to take better care of themselves between scheduled on-site visits. Remote patient monitoring solutions can not only improve care but also help save lives — for instance, by enabling diabetics to closely monitor their blood glucose levels, ensuring that appropriate action can be taken promptly if the need arises.

As such, virtual healthcare solutions benefit patients by engaging them in mentored self-care, enabling them to remotely monitor the state of their health, helping them cut costs associated with travel, and allowing them to access care support any time, any place.

Increased Staff Satisfaction

Digital health services provide significant advantages for healthcare providers and clinicians. In terms of organisation-wide benefits, virtual care solutions can reduce overhead expenses, enabling providers to save money on office space or administrative work. Whereas clinicians benefit as a result of being able to make more efficient use of their time and location requirements, leading to a more flexible way of working, while simultaneously reducing no-show visits. Moreover, seeing patients remotely safeguards clinicians from being exposed to patients’ potential viruses and pathogens — an advantage that proved immensely important throughout the pandemic. During this critical time, providers were able to “keep high-risk patients safe at home and allowed quarantined providers and staff to continue to deliver care”, improving the capacity of the healthcare system.

Virtual care solutions equipped with actionable analytics can also optimise clinical workflow efficiency, allowing clinicians to leverage patient data to make better, more informed care decisions. As such, digital solutions’ data capabilities often lead to improved performance and higher patient satisfaction.

A Better Patient Experience

Access to digital healthcare makes patients’ lives easier — it’s more convenient, less time-consuming, and generates fewer costs. It also helps resolve clinician shortages and democratises care by enabling patients to receive medical support even if they reside in rural areas. Virtual care solutions can also educate patients on how to manage their own chronic conditions and provide data based on which physicians can diagnose patients’ conditions sooner, leading to accelerated care delivery. Moreover, actionable analytics, which are often a key functionality of virtual care software, allow clinicians to access patients’ complete, up-to-date medical data, ensuring that patients receive precise diagnoses and effective treatment plans.

Costs Savings

Digital health solutions help both patients and healthcare providers to optimise the cost of care. Patients spend a significant amount of money and time when seeking traditional, on-site care — regardless of whether their country of residence provides them with access to public or private healthcare. All of the costs associated with travelling to a clinic — paying for parking, childcare, perhaps having to take a day off from work — add up and can be a burden on patients. This matter is even more pressing for those who live in rural areas situated long distances from the closest clinic or hospital. Whereas people who have access to virtual care solutions tend to spend less time visiting clinics, which can lead to lower direct cost.

Moreover, in terms of clinician benefits, digital health solutions can help reduce overhead costs per visit, as virtual visits are typically less time-consuming and allow clinicians to extend their working hours. With access to virtual healthcare, the “Did Not Attend” rate is vastly reduced, thereby improving care efficiency.


When it comes to virtual care, Forrester reports that healthcare organisations “should prioritise key capabilities such as interoperability… and the ability to ingest data from devices and sensors in a meaningful way”. Prioritising integration across virtual care ecosystems can help healthcare providers to optimise workflows, leading to greater staff satisfaction, and consequently, better care. Administrative requirements such as drafting documentation, the lack of system interoperability, and disorganised processes can lead to dissatisfaction and burnout amongst clinicians — which is why it’s crucial to invest in high-quality, fit-for-purpose digital healthcare solutions.

As Forrester reports, the significance of virtual healthcare is predicted to remain strong and unwavering. Nevertheless, it’s important to prioritise the adoption of the right kind of solutions that will be able to meet a range of evolving needs in ways that benefit organisations, clinicians, and patients.

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Melania Sulak Content Marketing Manager

She specialises in writing and overseeing a broad range of content tailored to meet the needs and interests of IT B2B sector readers.

See all Melania's posts

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